It was all something of a coincidence that producer Maite Woköck should come to specialise in animation. She had originally wanted to work in children‘s films after training as a script editor for that sector, but the world of animation beckoned when she found her story ideas more at home there than in live-action settings. “What fascinates me about animation is that you can create fantastic worlds without any limitations,“ Maite explains, adding that “there is often something really magical about the stories being told.“
Working then as a producer and script editor for the Hamburg-based animation studio Ulysses Filmproduktion from 2007-2015, she acquired, developed and financed numerous international co-productions, including the animation feature films NIKO – THE WAY TO THE STARS, NIKO 2 – LITTLE BROTHER, BIG HERO, OOOPS! NOAH IS GONE…, and RICHARD THE STORK.
In 2016, Maite then established her own company Ella Film to develop and finance feature films and TV productions for children. The boutique outfit‘s first project, Caroline Origer‘s 3D animated feature MY FAIRY TROUBLEMAKER, had been developed as a project during the EAVE year-long producers workshop and is currently in production as a co-production with Luxembourg-based Fabrique d’Images and SERU Animation in Baden-Württemberg.
In addition, Maite has served as a freelance producer on the projects of other production companies such as Akkord Film for its ZDF animation series PETRONELLA APPLEWITCH which is based on Sabine Städing‘s bestselling children‘s book series and has a feature film version in the works.
An exciting new chapter in her career was then launched in 2018 when she joined forces with Reza Memari, co-director of RICHARD THE STORK, to found the Berlin- and Hamburg-based transmedia company Telescope Animation to develop and produce animated feature films, series, games, XR and interactive books for a global family market. “I liked the idea of the company being built on different pillars so that we aren‘t just relying on working only in the area of feature films to be a sustainable business,” Maite recalls. Telescope‘s first project THE LAST WHALE SINGER is described as “an epic underwater story universe about a family of humpback whales who are whale singers, the chosen protectors of the oceans and their inhabitants. Gifted with mystical singing abilities, Whale Singers inherit special powers that allow them to heal, freeze or heat the water.”
“Reza and I had initially been working on the idea for a feature film, but then thought that it would be good to expand it to a game because his background is in games,” Maite says. “So we decided to create a storyworld that isn‘t just based on the feature film, but is one that is completely new one complementing that of the feature film.”
“We are following the latest technological possibilities for THE LAST WHALE SINGER which we would like to produce in Unreal Engine,” she explains. “Storytelling and technology are really intertwined here because now you can not only think in terms of a film or a series, but also look at how to tell a story on different platforms.”
Funding for the 9 million Euros feature film version of THE LAST WHALE SINGERr has come through the “Outstanding Films for Children” initiative from diverse partners. Production is scheduled to kick off from the middle of next year for the film to be ready for global release in 2024 at the same time as the launch of the video game on different consoles, with the 26-episode series to follow a year later.
Meanwhile, Maite and this ambitious project were put in the spotlight when she was invited to represent Germany as the first ever animation producer to participate in European Film Promotion‘s Producers on the Move initiative in Cannes this year. “It had been my dream since starting out in the industry to take part in this programme,” Maite says. “I didn‘t think that they would take me as an animation producer, but it was interesting to see that quite a few of this year‘s line-up had been involved in producing animation shorts in the past. And what‘s more, there were producers there interested in becoming partners on THE LAST WHALE SINGER.”